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Buzz Words - June 2015

June Meeting
The next meeting of the club is Tuesday, June 9, at 7:30 p.m. at the West Barnstable Community Building, Route 149, West Barnstable. Dr. Janko Božic will discuss beekeeping in Slovenia (see section headed CEBELARSTVO, below). Refreshments will be served; donations of sweets and treats gratefully accepted.

From the Board
Just about everyone has observed that bees go to very specific flowers while apparently ignoring others. They may not go to the bright yellow flower that I have in abundance around my back yard and they may ignore the fragrant lilacs, but they choose to go to the insignificant, to me, flowers of the hollybush. What makes them choose one flower over the other? Although there is no definite answer, relatively recent studies provide some interesting observations on this topic. It has been known for many years that the visible light spectrum is different for bees and humans. While we humans see wavelengths (colors) ranging from violet to red, bees see in the ultraviolet-to-orange range. In other words, the pattern a bee sees on a flower may be different from that seen by humans. For example, the yellow dandelion looks very different to a honey bee, as seen in the accompanying pictures. On the left is how we see it; on the right is how bees see it.

If you are interested in the topic, good starting points are the websites visualnews and naturfotograf showing a very large collection of pictures of flowers using UV photography. It also been proposed that bees and other pollinating insects can sense how much nectar a flower can produce and will visit the flower with the largest capacity, though how they know is unclear. More recently, in 2013 it was published in the scientific journal Science that bees can also detect the electric field produced by the flower. Individual flowers that have a high nectar content seem to have a higher electric field. As the bee lands on the flower there is a decrease in the electric field that may last for several minutes after the bee has left. The bees may be able to detect the decrease in the electric field and see that as a sign that the flower has already been visited and thus low in nectar. The electric field produced by the flower has an additional purpose: the pollen particles are attracted to the visiting bee by means of their different electrical charge (this is similar to the way rubbing (charging) a balloon makes your hair go straight up). When the bee lands on the flower the charged pollen particles are attracted to the bee which gets coated with pollen. Of course this is a mechanism flowers have developed to ensure that the bee will carry as much pollen as possible to other flowers. All this is described here and here. There is also some indication that the shape of the flower may play a role in attracting the bee. Fascinating indeed.

—Miguel Zamora

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Check Out Club Member Blogs

Julie Lipkin -

BCBA discussion group -

Tamar Haspel -

Facebook page -

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June Hive Openings
SATURDAY, JUNE 13, AT FOLLOWING LOCATIONS (9 a.m. start - except Falmouth, which will begin at 10 a.m.) … bring veil and gloves for hands-on workshops … please watch where you are driving, being kind to agricultural plantings. And dress for ticks!

  • East Falmouth (run by Marte Ayers, at Soares Nursery, 1021 Sandwich Road, Hatchville. Location is ˝ mile south of intersection of Route 151 and Sandwich Road. Drive between the two greenhouses. Please park behind greenhouses, not in customer lot.
  • Brewster (run by George Muhlebach, at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, 869 Route 6A, Brewster across the street from the museum.
  • Wellfleet (run by John Portnoy, at 60 Narrowland Road. From the south, take Route 6A into Wellfleet and pass along all the turnoffs for Wellfleet Center and Harbor. Opposite Moby Dick Restaurant, turn east (right) onto Gull Pond Road. Travel ˝ mile, take left onto Chris Drive. Bear right at top of hill onto Mayflower Drive. About 200 meters at bottom of hill take right onto dirt/gravel road – Narrowland Road (homemade sign). We are second house on left about 200 meters just before you hit the power lines.
  • Barnstable (run by Claire Desilets, at the Cape Cod Organic Farm, 3675 Route 6A. Proceed to top of hill by offices, bear to the right and park near big red barn and on grass behind garages. Please be kind to the area and property, not driving over agricultural species, and be sure to wear protective clothing (veils, etc.), as this will be a hands-on affair.

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Tips for May
Swarm season is upon us, so keep an eye on those strong hives. Super with your honey shallows before they get too crowded. And what is too crowded? When all but two frames are covered with bees or activity. And it is best not to leave any undrawn (plain foundation) as the season progresses. Now that the days are warmer and there is no chance of chilling the brood, move empty frames into the center of the cluster to get the frames fully drawn out and filled with brood or honey for storage.

Based on the arrival of our packages (April 25), Memorial Day weekend or thereabouts we should have seen a population explosion in our hives. At this time, the first batch of new workers should be hatching. From here on, the numbers will be increasing till you have both deep boxes full of bees. This year, this number increase nicely aligns with the nectar flow of black locust and the linden tree and many more. So hoping there will be plenty of nectar!

Visit one of the hive openings around the Cape to see just easy it is to increase your hive numbers.

—Board of Directors

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Janko Božic, our speaker for this month, is a biology professor at Ljubljana University in Slovenia. He received his bachelor’s degree (1988) and master’s degree (1992) in biology from the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. He did his doctorate stateside in the Department of Zoology and Physiology at Louisiana State University in 1996. As a Fulbright scholar at Oklahoma University he investigated ethanol’s effects on honeybee behavior for applications for a model for drug abuse and for toxicity studies in insects.

As an avid beekeeper, Dr. Božic personally maintains 50 Slovenian (AZ) hives at his village home near the Julian Alps. Having been a student in the United States for many years he is thoroughly familiar with the Langstroth hive. One of Dr. Božic’s interests is to search for technological solutions to make beekeeping more profitable while remaining pleasant for the beekeeper. He is a relaxed and engaging speaker. He is hopeful we will bring questions about beekeeping and our bees to the evening’s presentation. He is happy to return to America and reacquaint himself with people who are beekeepers out of their respect and concern for the bees and the pleasure obtained from working with one of nature’s most marvelous creatures.

Dr. Božic has studied aspects of honeybees that deal with expressions of foraging behavior, dance signals and dance signal transmission, social grooming behavior, varroa resistance behavior, comb building behavior, physiological changes during swarming, ecotypes of Carniolan bees, honeydew production, processing and automation of honey extraction and hive technology development.

Dr. Božic now works in the ethology lab (science of animal behavior). He teaches insect biology, comparative endocrinology and beekeeping courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Among his published articles are examinations regarding queen mating behavior, activity of attendants after attending the queen, quantitative analysis of social grooming behavior, attendants and followers of honeybee waggle dances and reduced ability of ethanol drinkers for social communication in honeybees. (See related item below.)

—Mark Simonitsch

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Slovenian Hive Seminar
Slovenian bee professor Dr. Janko Božic will conduct a seminar on the Slovenian AZ hive at the Chatham Community Building on Wednesday, June 10, beginning as close to 5:30 p.m. as possible. Q&A will be an integral part of the evening’s program. The room is available until 9:30. Feel free to arrive and depart to suit your schedules. The Community Building is at 702 Main St. and within 150 yards of the only traffic rotary in Chatham, at the west end of the Main Street business district. Plenty of parking is located at the rear of the building. The visitor’s entrance is on the side of the building. A receptionist is always at the desk inside the entrance. Call Mark at 774-722-2409 for last-minute directions to locate the building.

Donations to offset the cost of the room and professor’s airfare will be appreciated; see Mark.

—Mark Simonitsch

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Barnstable County Fair - July 20-26, 2015
Thanks to everyone who signed up at the last bee meeting for working at the fair. Attached is the latest update. Please check your calendar to see when you could help fill in the blanks. Remember your parking and entrance ticket are good for the whole day. So come early or stay after your shift to explore the fair. Check out the website for the evening entertainment which you might enjoy and book your shift accordingly.

Remember, if you sell your honey, hive products or bee-related products, you are required to work at least one shift. The price for the honey will be set at our “work day” potluck by those present and the tickets will be given out at the same time.

For those who have never worked at the fair, it entails selling the products and sharing your love for bees to the public. The kids all want to find the queen in Claire’s observation hive and buy a few honey sticks. The newbees will have a veteran working with them. Make sure you tell me you are a newbee when you sign up! If you have any questions on how this all works, don’t hesitate to contact me by email or phone: or 508-274-8743 (cell). Thanks.

—Marte Ayers

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Thoughtful Hydration

—Lynn Heslinga

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Just one of the methods you may use to reduce the number of varroa mites in your hive: Put a shallow frame in a deep box. The drone brood is the burr comb below the frame. Once the comb is capped in the pupa stage, slice it off and feed it to your chickens and replace frame back in hive. In another 30 days, repeat the process.

—Claire Desilets

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Bees for Community Garden
The town of Harwich has a community garden off Sisson Road where someone has tended the beehives for the past several years. The beekeepers have left, and the town is in search of a new beekeeper. Currently the hives are empty, however if anyone (or a group of members) in the Harwich area is interested in helping next season, please contact Amy Usowski, Harwich conservation administrator, at 508-430-7538.

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Season 2015: A Perfect Combination of Variables?
With winter lasting seemingly into April, both bees and beekeepers were ready to get out there when spring finally raised its head in early May. Registering a 50 percent overwintering loss, I decided in January to order four nucs, and glad that I did! On the Outer Cape, this spring’s weather was cool and it still seemed winterish in April. Eventually by the third week in May, the buds started springing up everywhere as Mother Nature finally caught up with the calendar! Beautiful shad, beach plum, chestnut, lilac and blueberry began to don their lovely buds. Witnessing this, I knew that soon there would be nectar flowing down in my neck of the Cape. And there it was – nectar, around the third week of May. Perfect conditions for starting nucs from the overwintered colonies and stashing some queens for further use after the honey flow. On May 18 I started a nuc, had success and a nice virgin queen emerged that I’ll keep my eye on for fresh eggs. As of May 29, she was still strutting around the frames but had not yet mated. I’ll save her for one of my honey-producing colonies after their work has subsided around July 4th. The strong Louisiana nucs I collected on May 9 built up extremely quickly as everything was working in harmony: We started to get some nice weather, drier than normal, keeping the buds and blossoms on the trees instead of on the ground like last year, as well as the bees buzzing and finding new forage in their new Northern digs. I fed those nucs for only a little over two weeks, and with the available nectar flowing, they filled up almost all of their deep frames (they had built out comb) so that they received their first honey super and a queen excluder on May 25. They ‘picked’ at the frames as chicken would in their yard, and then, lo and behold, on May 30 they started to actually bring some nectar in from the marshes. Perfect conditions: strong nucs, nice weather, good new bee sites. I moved some colonies this season away from areas that in prior years seemed not to get sufficient sun. This year, two nucs have new homes near Shank Painter Sanctuary in Provincetown, where they get sun all day long. While I was visiting them this evening, close to sunset, they were still flying. While I don’t want to jinx it, 2015 has the looks of being a banner honey crop if the weather keeps up and doesn’t get too dry. I’ll continue doing my weekly visits and make a nuc here and there when I see an overachiever colony with too many bees. I’d rather steal two or three frames of a mix of fresh eggs, brood and bees, put it above a queen excluder and make an easy nuc than have the same colony swarm on me in the middle of a honey harvest. Enjoy the beautiful weather and your bees!

»Rebecca Matarazzi

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Building Bees
Can the world’s most important pollinators be saved? Read how scientists and breeders are trying to create a hardier honeybee in this National Geographic report.

»Board of Directors

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In Other bug News...
The Monarch Project of Cape Cod will hold a free tutorial workshop on Saturday, June 6, at 10 a.m. at the parish hall of the Waquoit Congregational Church (15 Parsons Lane, East Falmouth). From 10 to 11 an inspirational film on the life cycle and the migration of the magnificent monarch butterfly will be shown, and guidelines will be provided for raising/releasing monarchs at home. Free milkweed seed will be distributed to all who attend the workshop. A light lunch will be provided at 11 a.m. for those who wish to stay; at 11:30 will be a hands-on workshop on how to build your own monarch cage. Several volunteers are being sought to help construct rearing cages for a monarch project with the Falmouth Public Schools. Each person who constructs a rearing cage for this school project will receive materials to build a cage at home.

»Board of Directors

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Recipe of the Month
Black pepper-honey steak*

3 Tbsp. red wine
3 Tbsp. honey
3 big cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper, and more as needed
Coarse salt
2 pounds of steaks (chuck rib eye, Porterhouse, T-bone, top loin, New York Strip Delmonico or Kansas City strip), cut 1Ľ to 1˝ inches thick, trimmed of excess fat

Combine the wine, honey, garlic, pepper and salt in a shallow dish; add the steak, coating it with the mixture. Let stand at room temperature while you set up the rest of the meal.

Heat the grill, or burn wood charcoal (instead of regular briquettes) until a gray ash forms. You want two piles of coals on either side of an empty center.

Pat steak dry, place over hottest part of grill. Sear quickly on both sides. Move to where there’s lower heat and cook, turning often, 10 minutes, or until steak reaches an internal temperature of 125° to 130° (for medium rare). Remove to a platter and let rest 5 to 10 minutes. The steak finishes cooking, collects itself and is much juicier for the wait. Serve steaks whole or sliced.

* Recipe reprinted from The Splendid Table,

back to top Last updated 4/3/15